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A New York Taxi Driver’s Food Tour: Day 1

My friend Carolynn from Vancouver is spending a week in New York City: I want her to taste some of the best things cabbies have recommended during my taxi adventures, and I want her to try my favorite stuff from my Gotham restaurant reconnaissance.

Here’s our food report from Day 1. We’ve just begun to eat:

Breakfast Part 1: Vosges Chocolate. Truffles with volcanic Hawaiian honey. Cherry Rooibos bars. Chocolate with blood orange, Campari, and hibiscus flowers. Caro bought six bacon chocolate bars and a box of bacon chocolate toffee ($12). Of the free samples I tried, the milk chocolate with bacon was my favorite (and I’m usually a dark chocolate person).

Vosges Haut-Chocolat
132 Spring Street (near Greene) – SoHo
Tel. 212.625.2929 –
Open Daily 11-8
4 oz chocolate bar: $7.50; Samples: Free

Breakfast Part 2: Ceci-Cela, the recent winner of the Serious Eats New York croissant contest. We shared a plain croissant ($2), which got more buttery with each bite. But I think their almond croissant tops it – it’s my favorite cab driving breakfast (with a macchiato from La Colombe).

55 Spring Street – Soho
Tel. 212-274-9179
Open Mon-Fri,Sun 8am-8pm; Sat 8am-8:30pm
Croissant: $2

Lunch: The only unimpressive ingredient in our Banh Mi Saigon sandwiches (with sweet pork, cilantro, radish, carrot and chili sauce) was the bread, which was day-old dry. This was Caro’s first-ever banh mi: “I haven’t even swallowed yet, and it’s awesome,” she said. One of my favorite ways to spend $4 in New York.

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery
198 Grand Street – near Mulberry (Little Italy)
Tel. 212 941 1541
Open 7 days: 8am-7pm
Banh mi Saigon sandwich: $3.75

Dessert: Caro found Pappabubble when she was doing food research for her trip to New York, and I wasn’t too excited about tasting their hard candy until we walked in and the ladies behind the counter offered us some of the warm pear sugar dough they were working into lollipops. It was like tasting pear in stereo – or pear through woofers. Whatever magic potion they’re using to manipulate their flavors is working – passion fruit and mango were just as loud. $5 may seem like a lot for a small bag of candy, but it’s a bargain for a work of art.

380 Broome St (between Mott St & Mulberry St) – Little Italy, Nolita
Tel (212) 966-2599
Open: Tue-Sat 12pm-9pm; Sun 12pm-6pm
2 oz bags of hard candy: $5

Dinner: Cho Dang Gol is off the main Koreatown drag in Midtown Manhattan – their house-made tofu is one of the main reasons my friends Michael, Ivy, Judy and Caroline have become regulars. Carolynn and I crashed their Wednesday night party, took one bite of silky bean curd and swore off supermarket tofu forever.

Wild sesame tofu stew ($10.95) tasted like a bland cousin of oatmeal, but haemul pajun (grilled rice flour pancake with seafood and scallion, $17.95) and Jap Chae (stir-fried glass noodles with beef and vegetables, $17.95) hit all the right notes.

A tofu trio (with pork belly and kimchi, $15.95) and small bowls of complimentary sides: Korean-style omelets, kimchi-marinated mackerel, and squash in sesame oil and rice vinegar rounded out our spicy feast. I’m definitely going back for this pancake.

Cho Dang Gol

55 W. 35th St. (between 5th & 6th Aves) – Koreatown
Tel. 212 695 8222
Open: Daily 11:30am-10:30pm
Total cost per person: $16.50 (including tea).

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